Bringing Power to the Poor
Sacred Power, Albuquerque
Life is tough on the Navajo Indian reservation. The average per capita income is $7,269, according to the U.S. Census, leaving 43 percent of the population in poverty. An even more staggering statistic: Nearly 18,000 homes on the reservation, which straddles Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, lack electricity.
Dave Melton, 57, CEO of Sacred Power, is on a mission to change that. Sacred Power has equipped 400 Navajo homes with solar and wind-powered generators, effectively bringing thousands of residents from the 19th century into the 21st. "Something as simple as a fan for the old ladies cooking over a wood stove on a hot day brings such relief and joy," says Ron Solimon, CEO of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which serves the 19 tribes in New Mexico.
Melton, a member of the Laguna tribe, spent 10 years working in a uranium mine on the reservation while putting himself through college. In 2001, he and Odes Armijo-Caster co-founded Sacred Power, which designs, manufactures, and installs solar energy products. Three years later, the company received its first contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service to provide hybrid generators to remote homes on the Navajo reservation. Sacred Power, which has revenue of about $6 million, has since won three more USDA contracts and recently submitted a bid on another. "The Navajo people continue to suffer," Melton says. "So we're going back to the well. We hope there is some more water."